A lit­tle won­der

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - By STU­ART MARTIN VALUE: TECH­NOL­OGY: DE­SIGN: SAFETY: DRIV­ING: VER­DICT:

AUS­TRALIA has had a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the WRX.

The up­start from Subaru took rally prow­ess and trans­lated it into cult sta­tus, in no small part to its quick’n’easy driv­ing at­tributes.

The styling has been in and out of favour, some­thing that has not just af­flicted the lit­tlest Subaru on the mar­ket. Bags of grip, heaps of grunt and a rel­a­tively cheap pur­chase price hasn’t re­ally changed much in the Rex – but the looks of the new car could put it back in favour.

Dwelling in the $40,000 ball­park means you can’t ex­pect mir­a­cles on the equip­ment front. Blue­tooth phone and au­dio link is a plus, but some might con­sider a five-speed man­ual (the only gear­box on of­fer un­less you step up to the STI) a bit old hat.

There is a Blue­tooth au­dio and USB in­put for the 10-speaker sound sys­tem as well.

There’s also cli­mate con­trol, an alarm, al­loy ped­als and self­lev­el­ling head­lights.

But it’s not with­out some com­plaints: There are no stan­dard auto head­lights, rain-sens­ing wipers or ex­te­rior bootlid switch.

There’s a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive four-wheel drive sys­tem, a five-speed man­ual, sta­bil­ity con­trol and that’s about it.

It’s main ri­val — the Ral­liart Lancer — of­fers only a dou­ble­clutch six-speed au­to­mated man­ual.

Broader in the beam, flared guards, ag­gres­sive snout, mus­cu­lar flanks and haunches tes­tify to the qual­i­ties within.

The in­te­rior is com­fort­able and well laid out, with the driver get­ting the tachome­ter dead-ahead on the in­stru­ment panel and one-piece rac­ing buck­ets.

The up­dated WRX boasts a five-star ANCAP crash rat­ing , an all-wheel drive that of­fers great dy- namic abil­ity, pre­ten­sioned and load-lim­it­ing front seat­belts, dual front, side and full-length cur­tain airbags, sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-lock brakes with elec­tronic brake force dis­tri­bu­tion and brake as­sist.

Punch through the gears and it’s ap­par­ent the WRX has lost none of its pace.

De­spite feel­ing a lit­tle busy at open road speeds, the lack of a sixth cog is not too hard to get over, as the flex­i­ble lit­tle turbo four pro­duces am­ple poke.

There’s plenty of fun to be had al­most re­gard­less of sur­face. Even a quick squirt on the dirt shows off the easy de­meanour af­forded the car by the all-wheel drive.

A value-for-money ma­chine that can com­plete mun­dane chores as well as more en­ter­tain­ing drives, the WRX out­shines its far more ex­pen­sive sib­ling on most fronts, the only draw­back be­ing the lack of an au­to­matic, which could send cus­tomers head­ing for Mit­subishi, or step­ping up to the more ex­pen­sive STI auto.

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